The Korean Christian community is bustling with plans to celebrate the 100th year of what is known as the Pyongyang Revival of 1907.
It is not easy for the contemporary non-religious to imagine _ especially in times like this, when the name Pyongyang immediately evokes images of nuclear bombs and missiles _ but Western missionaries who were active in Northeast Asia in the early 20th century once called the North Korean capital the Jerusalem of the East.
It started with a Bible study that took place in Changdaehyun Church in Pyongyang. During the night of Jan. 14, 1907, pastors and ordinary Christians participating in a Bible study started to pour out their guilt in public, at the same time zealously repenting with tears. The wave of repentance lasted until the next day, and the religious fervor soon spread. The event touched off a massive conversion to Christianity and established organized Christian groups across the nation.
The growth in the number of pastors caused by the Pyongyang Revival led Christians to play a leading role in Korea’s independence movements, including the March First Movement in 1919.
For the Korean Christian community, the events currently taking place to mark the anniversary of the Pyongyang Revival are not only about remembering history. They are about facing challenges and making changes necessary for a second revival.
Park Young-shin, an expert on the sociology of religion and professor emeritus at Yonsei University, said “Korean Protestant churches have been losing ground because they lost holiness and are siding with materialism and the economy.”
“I don’t think we should be looking back so much to the past revival, but God wants us to regroup, fulfilling his future vision for Korea and for the rest of the world,’’ said Peter Wagner, president of Global Harvest Ministries and honorary co-chairman of Transformation 2007, in the conference’s opening session.
In the meantime, several South Korean churches are trying to reach out to the North, where the Pyongyang Revival is unlikely to be celebrated under the Stalinist Kim Jong-il regime.
[The Korea Times]